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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 06:27 GMT 07:27 UK
New Zealand call to Maori expats
By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

File image of a Maori man performing a traditional dance
Some 15% of New Zealand's Maoris live in Australia
New Zealand is urging an army of Maori expatriates in Australia to return home.

The government in Wellington has launched a new push to try to tempt them back.

One in seven Maoris now lives in Australia. Many cross the Tasman Sea for better job prospects and to escape social problems and racism.

The government in Wellington has said there has never been a better time for Maori expatriates to return home.

Fifteen percent of the country's indigenous people have migrated to Australia and the authorities want some of them back.

The Maori Affairs ministry has said many would find their homeland a very different place to the one they left behind.

Unemployment has fallen and officials have insisted there are now greater opportunities in Maori education and business.

They also point to a renaissance of traditional culture.

Community tensions

A study has shown there are as many as 125,000 Maori in Australia.

Like many New Zealanders, they make the journey across the Tasman Sea, tempted by higher wages and a warmer climate.

Most still consider New Zealand to be home and do not take up Australian citizenship.

An official campaign to encourage them to return is under way. Convincing them though might not be easy.

Some Maori migrants moved away to escape drugs, gangs, domestic violence and racism from the white population. There are also tensions within their own communities.

Expatriates are often labelled "plastic Maori" who have abandoned the cause in the selfish pursuit of money overseas.

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